The 2011 Canadian season for giant bluefin tuna was one of the best ever. Even so, when Capt Dale Trenholm of Zappa Charters at Cape George in Nova Scotia took Kiwi angler Eryn Jacobsen fishing last September, they were in for an extra special day!
When Dale and his charter clients arrived on the grounds that morning they observed many birds flying about, a sure sign that the tuna were pushing bait fish to the surface. On many occasions last season, once the berley trail was started, these enormous fish could be hand feed beside the boat as if they were chickens. The seas were calm and the sun was shining, they had been waiting for this kind of a day – a perfect day to try for a giant bluefin tuna record on comparatively light tackle.
Having fought a bluefin two days prior to this for 10-and-a half hours on 15kg tackle – and then losing it – the team decided to use a wire trace for this attempt as it would give them an advantage once they got the leader within grasp. Of course, wire is much easier for the tuna to see, and made for a difficult time trying to hook them. The thing Dale noticed was that the bigger ones came from under the boat, not towards the boat. So the rod was left in the bow and the bait was taken to the stern so the leader would be tight while the bait was dangled just beneath the surface. After several attempts one grabbed it and tore off towards the south – which Dale says they often do.
Eryn grabbed the outfit and was quickly in the chair. Dale turned the boat and ran up on the fish to try and gain back the 500 or 600 metres they had lost. To their surprise,they were gaining line fast and the fish was slowing down. Eryn was doing a great job in the chair. With a multitude of world records to her name she seemed to have an answer to all the fish’s tricks.
After 70 minutes the leader popped-out of the water for an instant, and 80 minutes later popped up again, but it was just a little too far to get a hold of. Five minutes more, and with Dale in the cockpit backing down hard, everybody doing their part, and the fish seemingly cooperative, Mark Veesey, the crewman, finally got the leader in hand. That’s when the fight really began!
The fish did its best to break away and escape, but was soon on the surface where John Batterton (Eryn’s captain in New Zealand) had the first flying gaff in it within an instant. And just like that it was over. At first everyone looked at the fish and said it was 500lb to 600lb. As the existing women’s world record on 24kg has stood at 518lb (234.96kg) since Phyllis Bass caught her fish off the Bahamas in 1950, they knew they had a challenger for the record. On the way back to Ballantynes Cove, they toasted their success with beer and Champagne.
The successful crew entered the dock area to be greeted with cheers from a large crowd, and the media was there with lots of questions and cameras. They had access to an IGFA weighstation, and when the fish was brought out of the water and settled enough to get a perfect reading, the scales read 911lb, smashing the old record by nearly 400lb!
Now the claim rests with the IGFA, who will hopefully ratify the new record – see next issue for confirmation